M agersucht and bulimia only affect women? Are you kidding me? Are you serious when you say that. Meanwhile, more and more men are suffering from eating disorders: Between 2008 and 2018, there were 96 percent more men over 40 who were treated for an eating disorder, according to a study by the commercial health insurance company in Hanover. Even among 12 to 17 year old boys there was a 60 percent increase. Eating disorders have long ceased to be seen as a purely women’s problem – and perhaps never have been.
Why is the number of men with an eating disorder increasing?
“It is difficult to say whether men are now being treated more often or whether it simply affects more men,” says Prof. Thomas J. Huber, chief physician at the Klinik am Korso , which specializes exclusively in the treatment of eating disorders. Probably both are true. On the one hand, the pressure on men to have a muscular, aesthetic body has increased. On the other hand, more men can now be treated – similar to other mental illnesses. Nevertheless, many affected men still do not seek treatment or do so late because they are ashamed. “Some people affected do not even know at first that they have an eating disorder. Often it is others who recognize a disordered eating behavior,” says Huber.
Which eating disorders do men suffer most often?
“In men, binge eating is the most common eating disorder,” says the expert. Those affected suffer from repeated binge eating. Sure, occasional food cravings are probably familiar to everyone. When binge eating, however, these attacks occur too often – about twice a week. People who suffer from the disorder eat significantly more and even lose control over what they ingest. In addition, those affected do not take any measures such as exercise or change their diet. The common consequence: obesity.
“More men are now also suffering from anorexia and bulimia, although significantly more women are still affected,” says Huber. Anorexia, or anorexia, makes you very afraid of getting fat. Body weight plays a decisive role in self-esteem: those affected starve to reach their very low weight threshold. 90 percent of the sick are girls and young women, 10 percent are men.
Bulimia counts as a variant of anorexia: Do you eat tons of food in a short time? Do you then often vomit for fear of getting fat? Do you take laxatives regularly? Or do you do too much exercise to stay thin and keep losing weight? These can all be signs of bulimia. Sick people often appear self-confident in public – and they usually have their eating behavior under control in front of others. But the binge eating, followed by the measures not to gain weight, are acted out secretly.
Why do eating disorders often go hand in hand with sports addiction?
One form of bulimia is called sports bulimia , which also affects many men. Sports addiction is combined with bulimia. Those who suffer from it have unhealthy sports behavior. This is shown, among other things, by the fact that sport is practiced out of compulsion – and one is very dissatisfied if one does not go to the gym or go jogging. Many affected men also do sports when they are sick or have injuries and should actually take it easy. The tricky thing about the disease: “Those affected are not always unhappy with their sports bulimia and often do not notice that their sports behavior is unhealthy,” says Huber. “But experience has shown that at some point this will tip over: For example, if you are injured or if you fail to achieve success.”
Eating disorders are also often associated with muscle dysmorphophobia . It is also called muscle addiction or the Adonis complex and is characterized by the fact that those affected have a distorted picture of their body: “They feel thin and unattractive even if they have a well-toned body,” says Huber. This leads to them doing too much sport – and reaching their absolute limits. Those who suffer from muscle addiction often compulsively eat healthy or even use steroids in order to achieve their maximum performance.
What are the differences in eating disorders between women and men?
“Affected men, for example, are less concerned with being ‘thin’ than with being very fit and having a lot of muscle mass,” emphasizes the doctor. This is not least due to today’s ideal of beauty. It used to be said that a man without a stomach is not a man. “Today the social urge for a muscular, aesthetic body has increased in men,” said Huber.
What are the most common causes of eating disorders?
The causes of eating disorders are as individual as the people affected, says expert Huber. “A common cause is low self-esteem. Those affected measure their worth by whether they are fit or thin enough.” However, poor self-confidence can also encourage binge eating. In the case of eating disorders, mental illnesses such as depression also play a major role – but in many cases it is not clear whether eating disorders are a consequence or the trigger of the psychological problems. Sexual abuse is also a major problem, says Huber, as people are more prone to eating disorders when they have been abused.
What are the consequences of eating disorders?
The consequences vary depending on the eating disorder. However, the consequences in all cases range from physical, psychological and social impairments. Above all, anorexia can have serious consequences for your body: Anorexia could damage your potency or your libido. In addition, you have to expect hormonal disorders. For you, anorexia can also mean withdrawing from previous interests and friends.
In addition to depression, bulimia can also result in physical illnesses, such as cardiac arrhythmias up to cardiac arrest, or damage to the esophagus from frequent vomiting. In sports bulimia, there is also the agonizing urge to move, which often leads to negative feelings and a guilty conscience. For some people it is almost impossible to rest. In addition to being overweight, the consequences of binge eating also include feelings of guilt and low self-esteem.
How can eating disorders be treated?
Eating disorders need to be treated on several levels, says Huber. The treatment depends on the type of disease.
- Return to normal exercise behavior in exercise bulimia.
For example, in sports bulimia, there are three approaches to treatment. “It is important to return to normal sporting behavior. In other words, to do sport for pleasure and not out of compulsion. That can be a bit like withdrawal,” emphasizes the expert. In a further step it is important to learn to eat more balanced. Primarily the needs of the body count. If you have previously eaten too much or too little, you will learn how you can return to healthy eating habits during treatment in a specialist clinic. Another treatment approach is psychotherapy: The main aim here is to understand the background to the eating disorder. In addition, the self-esteem of those affected should be strengthened.
- Binge Eating: Eating well and getting binge eating under control.
These three treatment steps are also followed in the treatment of binge eating: However, those affected must first develop a sporting behavior in order to combat the consequences of being overweight. In addition, sick people learn how to eat more balanced and get binge eating under control. As with all eating disorders, psychotherapy is also important in order to get to the bottom of the psychological background of eating behavior.
- Anorexia: regaining the desire to eat.
In the case of anorexia, it is necessary to dismantle ‘prohibited lists’. This means foods that you have forbidden yourself to avoid gaining weight. In addition, those affected should learn to enjoy eating again during treatment.
- In bulimia, get out of the vicious circle of binge eating and vomiting.
If you have bulimia, the goal of your treatment is to break the cycle. In other words: the repeated binge eating, followed by measures such as vomiting or compulsive exercise. In this context, patients in hospitals are initially prohibited from hoarding or buying food in their rooms for treatment. Affected people only eat together with others. This will teach them to find a way out of the vicious circle and back to healthy eating habits.
Conclusion: Eating disorders are often associated with sports addiction in men
More and more men are struggling with eating disorders these days. Most of those affected are less interested in being thin – but the urge for a well-toned body can lead to unhealthy sports behavior combined with impaired eating behavior. And that in turn can have serious consequences for your body and your psyche. Huber’s appeal: “For those affected, it is worthwhile to change your perspective and first admit the disease,” advises the expert. Among other things, psychotherapy or a stay in a specialist clinic can then help to change attitudes towards yourself.